Warped Lid on Bechstein Grand, circa 1904

Posted by: SimplyBrendan

Warped Lid on Bechstein Grand, circa 1904 - 11/19/12 03:53 PM

A client I have recently acquired has a lovely old Bechstein Grand, circa 1904, round legs. Pretty piano. The top lid has warped inward between the two hinges( the lid is bending towards the plate between the two hinges across full length of the lid).
She is most distressed about this as it has just come back from an antique restorer, after being spray painted... Not French polished..., the lid that is.
The underside of the lid has not been sprayed and as a suggestion, the antique bloke has opted to spray the underside in hopes that it will solve the problem.
She contacted me and honestly, apart from wedging some paper between the hinges and weighing down the round of the lid( furthest away from the keyboard) and leaving it for a year in the hope that THIS may change the warp, I would appreciate any help.
Posted by: AndyJ

Re: Warped Lid on Bechstein Grand, circa 1904 - 11/19/12 05:32 PM

Originally Posted By: SimplyBrendan
A client I have recently acquired has a lovely old Bechstein Grand, circa 1904, round legs. Pretty piano. The top lid has warped inward between the two hinges( the lid is bending towards the plate between the two hinges across full length of the lid).
She is most distressed about this as it has just come back from an antique restorer, after being spray painted... Not French polished..., the lid that is.
The underside of the lid has not been sprayed and as a suggestion, the antique bloke has opted to spray the underside in hopes that it will solve the problem.
She contacted me and honestly, apart from wedging some paper between the hinges and weighing down the round of the lid( furthest away from the keyboard) and leaving it for a year in the hope that THIS may change the warp, I would appreciate any help.


It's not very surprising if it warped after the top of the lid was painted. That has the effect of sealing one surface while leaving the other unsealed. Water vapor can now only enter from the bottom, so the wood's fibers will swell more on that side than on the top. Swollen fibers push each other apart, so the bottom is now a bit longer than the top, so the wood has to curve to distribute the extra volume of fiber.

If the top was straight before it was refinished, removing the finish from the top and letting it sit in a dry environment for a few weeks may cause the wood to flatten out. If that happens, it can then be painted again -- this time, on both sides.

I would not paint the bottom while the wood is warped, as that will seal the moisture in. The top might eventually flatten out as the moisture distributes itself, but I wouldn't count on it.
Posted by: Supply

Re: Warped Lid on Bechstein Grand, circa 1904 - 11/19/12 06:06 PM

I agree it appears that the warping is related to the re-finishing. I would not undertake any measures before the client has exhausted all avenues to have the problem remedied by the re-finisher. If you start wedging and bending the lid, some of the responsibility could be put onto you and your actions.

No matter what trade, if there is an issue with the outcome, the original tradesperson deserves a chance to make it right, and I think they have certain obligations in this. Getting a third person involved in trying to "fix" things usually only muddies the waters.
Posted by: MacDan

Re: Warped Lid on Bechstein Grand, circa 1904 - 11/19/12 10:21 PM

As Andy indicated, sealing one side of a piece of wood will cause it to warp, and the amount of tension and distortion in the wood will be directly related to the size of the piece, the number of pieces that are glued up to make it, and their grain orientation. Depending on the age and type of glue used to glue up the lid to begin with, the weaknesses will either show up as the joints separating or the wood literally splitting. This is due to the glue joint being stronger than the wood itself, which can happen with hide glues of this vintage.

As a furniture builder, I can assure you that anyone even remotely familiar with best practices for any kind of wood finishing or refinishing would be aware of this. It makes me question the ability of the "restorer".

The results being what they are, the only proper way to resolve this would be to strip the "new" finish off the top of the piece and refinish both sides using the same methods and materials. To do anything else will reduce the piece to firewood for the most part. It's not a matter of what will happen, but when.

Dan
Posted by: pianolive

Re: Warped Lid on Bechstein Grand, circa 1904 - 11/20/12 06:45 AM

Do you know when this warp was noticed the first time? Maybe the warp was there when the restorer got the piano?
Maybe the lid has been left open for decades. I have seen quite many lids like that, Bechstein, Steinway, Schimmel and others.
To bend it back, it must be fixed for a long time in a position where it is warped the other way, so to speak. To to that it will need some heat and moisture.
I agree with others here that you should nothing at all before the customer and the restorer have solved how to move on.
Posted by: SimplyBrendan

Re: Warped Lid on Bechstein Grand, circa 1904 - 11/20/12 11:18 PM

It may very well have been there for quite some time. This lady is a little eccentric to say the least. She inherited the piano from her deceased mom's estate recently and had it moved from Cape Town to Johannesburg. She's had the Life Saver installed( this is how I'm involved!!) and now the lid half-heartedly finished.
We would have French Polished the lid, but my suggestion was to do the entire piano and she would have nothing of spending "that kind of money" after just had the piano moved up here. I think it was long time warped and I've just got to deal with it with suggestions posted here.
I have told her that the "restorer" should endeavor to sort out the problem first as I too believe that he should be given a fair chance.
For all I know, she may have told him only to polish the top surface to save money. It would then have been up to the restorer to advise her of the consequences. Either way, the restorer if he had noticed the lid being warped, should have notified her to this. This would have indicated if the lid was or was not warped initially.... But it looks to me that compound problems are at play here.
Non commitment to spending on a proper job as far as polishing goes and the restorer's ability seems to be questionable. Either way... I thank you for all the input and I'll keep checking for any other suggestions along the way.
Today I go to her as an appointment is booked and relay what we have discussed.
Regards